Major League Baseball's rulebook could use an injection of common sense.Rules and rulings overshadowed on-field performance in a pair of postseason games Sunday, and that's less than ideal - especially for the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros.While the umpires on the field and replay officials in the New York command center may have very well made each call correctly by the book, that doesn't mean MLB's rules couldn't benefit from some rethinking about the spirit of what they're trying to accomplish.For starters, the league's ground-rule double rule needs an adjustment following a crucial moment Sunday in Boston.With two outs in the top of the 13th and the score tied 4-4, Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier drove a ball to deep right-center field. His teammate Yandy Diaz, on first base, ran with the pitch since the count was full and there were two outs. The ball one-hopped off the fence and ricocheted off Boston right fielder Hunter Renfroe before going over the short Fenway Park wall.Diaz was already past third base and on his way home when Red Sox outfielders raised their hands to alert umpires about the out-of-play ball. This ball just bounced off of the outfielder and went over the fence. They're calling it a ground rule double... pic.twitter.com/B7x4vjzF5h Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) October 11, 2021 The play was ruled a ground-rule double for Kiermaier since Renfroe didn't deliberately deflect the ball over the wall. Diaz was placed at third base, even though there wasn't a scenario where he wouldn't have scored. Mike Zunino followed with an inning-ending strikeout.According to Rule 5.05 (a) (8), "Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases.""If I stayed at second, that's fine," Kiermaier told reporters. "But I was hoping to see that Yandy scored because he would have scored, obviously." Winslow Townson / Getty ImagesPerhaps the call didn't matter since Christian Vazquez ended the game in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run, walk-off homer. Perhaps Red Sox pitcher Nick Pivetta would have thrown differently to Zunino down a run. Perhaps the Rays would have used a different pitching plan if they had a lead. It's impossible to know.What seems reasonable is the on-field umpires or review officials ought to have the ability to judge if Diaz would have scored. Maybe the Statcast's player-tracking data available in every park could have even guided them. At the very least, the information would show where Diaz was when the play ended.Given his position on the basepath and the ball's distance from home plate, officials likely could have figured out the probability of Diaz scoring if they compared it to past plays with the same input. If a player owns, say, a 90% chance of advancing or scoring, he's awarded the base provided he continued to run and didn't fall, trip, or injure himself in the process of heading to the base in question. Billie Weiss / Getty ImagesPerhaps there's a need for a ground-rule triple in certain situations. Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he witnessed one in 2010.While rule interpretations can lead to a slippery slope, there are plenty of judgment calls allowed in baseball - start with the strike zone, for instance - and a play like that should have some discretion. In today's game, data is available that would show the exact probability of a runner scoring. In Diaz's case, the chances were 100% or close to it. Instead, the game was a prisoner to the letter of the law.It wasn't the only bizarre situation Sunday.With the Chicago White Sox trying to stave off elimination in Game 3 of their ALDS series, White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal hit a bouncing ball to first base in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Sox were leading 7-6 and had runners on the corners with no outs. Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel collected the ball and threw home to cut down Luis Robert at the plate. But Grandal appeared to move into the infield grass in anticipation of the throw. The ball glanced off his left arm, allowing Luis Robert to score and Jose Abreu to wind up at third. Do you think Grandal should be called out here? pic.twitter.com/FZzcOMzLPT FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 11, 2021 The Astros wanted interference called on Grandal, but the umpires, after huddling, decided he hadn't tampered with the play. Their reasoning?"We decided that there was no interference because on that play, the ball was hit to the infield, and then coming back to the plate," home-plate umpire Tom Hallion told a pool reporter. "That 45-foot lane does not even come into play. It's the batter establishing his basepath. When he came out of the box and started running, he didn't veer off, he didn't throw up his shoulder. He did nothing intentional to get hit with that ball. So, we all agreed, and that's why we came out to Dusty and told him that it's not interference."But Grandal actually began in a more direct line to first base and then moved to the left of the baseline. Up to No Good? It's on #MLBTonight!BK, @markdero7 and Dan O'Dowd walk through the Grandal baserunning play. pic.twitter.com/b39SOqVw5t MLB Now (@MLBNow) October 11, 2021 There is arguably a rule in the books - Rule 6.01 (3) (a) - that would have pushed umpires to call Grandal out for interference:"It is interference by a batter or a runner when Before two are out and a runner on third base, the batter hinders a fielder in making a play at home base; the runner is out."Grandal coyly described his path as "good baserunning." Yasmani Grandal when asked about the play in the fourth inning: "It was good baserunning, we'll leave it at that" pic.twitter.com/JOud2Tk4YN The Baseball Newsletter (@bbletter) October 11, 2021 Perhaps it wasn't legal baserunning, but it was effective baserunning. Grandal clearly knew what he was doing, and given the nature of the all-sorts-of-gray-area rule, it was smart to place the onus of judgment on the umpiring crew.This issue seems to come up often in the postseason. There's an easy way around this: reduce the issues of establishing intent and a running lane by extending the beginning of the lane from 45 feet away from first base to, say, 60 feet or even closer. That would eliminate many of the issues. Moreover, there's a perfectly good four- to six-foot wide dirt base lane landscaped into every major league park now that the AstroTurf era of dirt islands around the baselines is behind us. There aren't many reasons why a baserunner can't be in that dirt lane en route to first base. There have been calls to implement a so-called safety base that extends into foul territory and makes it unnecessary for a runner in the dirt lane to veer back into fair territory at the last second. Ron Vesely / Getty ImagesThere were no impediments stopping Grandal from running in the dirt basepath; there were no bats, balls, or human beings in his way. Grandal was trying to eliminate a throwing lane by creating a more inefficient path to reach first base.Officials called both these situations by the rulebook, but they could have used common-sense interpretations that MLB, its rulebook, and umpires should be equipped to handle. Instead, many fans are left wondering why the rules allow for counterintuitive outcomes, and now the focus is on the umpires instead of the players.Travis Sawchik is theScore's senior baseball writer.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
The Chicago White Sox staged an epic comeback during Game 3 of the American League Division Series to stay alive against the Houston Astros, though they benefitted from a controversial baserunning play by Yasmani Grandal.After retaking the lead in the fourth inning, Grandal hit into a fielder's choice and reached on a throwing error by Yuli Gurriel. The Astros first baseman's throw home hit Grandal, who was running inside the baseline toward first, and Luis Robert scored to extend the lead to 8-6 after the White Sox trailed by four runs the previous inning."Clearly, he was running inside (the baseline)," Astros manager Dusty Baker said, according to MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger. "That's interference, you know, in itself. That was a big play because we didn't get an out. They scored a run and that was a big play in the inning. I was arguing the fact that, especially him being a catcher, he knows what he was doing. That was a smart play on his part, and that was the explanation that they gave me: that they didn't see anything wrong with the play."Astros starter Zack Greinke immediately signaled that Grandal ran inside the baseline and Baker exited the dugout to argue the play, as well.Ultimately, the umpiring crew ruled Grandal didn't interfere, and the White Sox eventually won 12-6 to cut their ALDS deficit to 2-1."We decided that there was no interference because on that play the ball was hit to the infield, and then coming back to the plate," crew chief Tom Hallion said. "That 45-foot lane does not even come into play. It's the batter establishing his basepath. When he came out of the box and started running he didn't veer off, he didn't throw up his shoulder. He did nothing intentional to get hit with that ball. So, we all agreed, and that's why we came out to Dusty and told him that it's not interference."Grandal played a crucial role earlier in the game, too, hitting a two-run homer in the third inning.Game 4 of the ALDS, originally slated for Monday, was postponed until Tuesday afternoon due to rain in Chicago.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said he didn't intentionally get in the way of a throw to the plate from Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel as he ran to first base in the fourth inning Sunday, saying, "I wish I could tell you it was a heads-up play."
The American League side of the MLB postseason bracket is complete after the Red Sox trounced the Yankees to set up an ALDS matchup with the Rays. Can Boston keep its postseason magic alive? And will the Astros reach their fifth consecutive ALCS, or can the White Sox pull off the (minor) upset?No. 1 Rays (-160) vs. No. 4 Red Sox (+140) TEAM RECORD HOME AWAY H2H L10 RUN DIFF Tampa Bay Rays 100-62 52-29 48-33 11-8 7-3 +206 Boston Red Sox 92-70 49-32 43-38 8-11 5-5 +80 Boston's wild-card victory Tuesday encapsulated everything that makes this team so dangerous in the postseason: a front-line ace in Nathan Eovaldi, who's clearly saved his best for the playoffs; power up and down the lineup, even without J.D. Martinez; and a bullpen that, while inconsistent at times this year, has the depth to cobble together innings behind a big lead.The biggest takeaway was the development of Eovaldi, who averaged a season-high 98.5 mph on his fastball and threw 54 of his 71 pitches for strikes - including 12 swinging strikes - in Tuesday's 6-2 win. The Red Sox ace was the AL's most valuable pitcher by fWAR (5.6) and was particularly stout against the Rays, boasting a 2.39 ERA with a 10.6 K/9 in four meetings.The Rays' staff lacks a clear anchor heading into this series, which could rear its ugly head. Tampa Bay's likely 1-2-3 starters against Boston have combined for 5 1/3 career innings and zero starts in the postseason, and the team's only two veteran options - Ryan Yarbrough (5.11 ERA) and Michael Wacha (5.05) - have been dreadful this year.Manager Kevin Cash will surely call on the 'pen early and often if his young arms struggle, but we saw how quickly Boston's bats can blow up a seemingly deep bullpen with a barrage of long balls. On the other side, Red Sox starters Eduardo Rodriguez (4.74) and Chris Sale (3.16) have had their ups and downs, but they bring a combined 35 innings of postseason work to the table and only need to be passable to support this Boston lineup.The Rays' offense deserves some praise after plating the fourth-most runs per game (5.29) in the regular season. Yet advanced metrics say the Red Sox have the edge there, too. Boston owns the third-highest wOBA (.333) and OPS (.777) of any team. Plus, the Red Sox rank second in hard-hit rate (42.5%), barrel rate (9.9%), average exit velocity (89.9 mph), and xSLG (.443) - slotting ahead of Tampa Bay's lineup in every area.So, which side do you trust more? This Boston lineup has been more consistent this year with better advanced metrics, and its rotation is far more seasoned with a true bonafide ace taking the mound at least once in this series - which can't be said for the Rays. Home-field advantage and a safer bullpen can only go so far when the series price is this lopsided.Pick: Red Sox +140No. 2 Astros (-135) vs. No. 3 White Sox (+115) TEAM RECORD HOME AWAY H2H L10 RUN DIFF Houston Astros 95-67 51-30 44-37 5-2 4-6 +205 Chicago White Sox 93-69 53-28 40-41 2-5 7-3 +160 Both of these teams are built similarly coming into the postseason - they each feature elite lineups with a former MVP surrounded by surging young talent, while their pitching staffs each include a former Cy Young winner and a cast of high-upside but inconsistent hurlers. When you dive into the numbers, though, it's hard to ignore Chicago's advantages.Start at the plate, where Houston's collection of contact-friendly hitters have carried the team to at least the ALCS in four consecutive seasons. Kyle Tucker is the group's rising star, leading the 'Stros with a .917 OPS and a .557 slugging percentage in the regular season, though Yordan Alvarez (33 HR), Jose Altuve (31), and Carlos Correa (26) have some pop in their bats, too. That's to say nothing of former MVP runner-up Alex Bregman and batting title winner Yuli Gurriel (.319 average), who round out the AL's deepest lineup.That group carried the Astros to the highest batting average (.267) and second-highest wOBA (.336) in the regular season. Houston swings at just 45.4% of pitches with an MLB-low 21% whiff rate, and its weak-contact rate is the third-lowest (3.9%) in the majors. Translation: If you want to beat this Astros lineup, you won't be able to do it by pitching to contact.That's no problem for the White Sox, who boast the highest whiff rate (29.4%) and K/9 (10.2) in the majors. They also lead MLB in fWAR (27.1) thanks to a stellar rotation that, while not as sharp as it was midseason, is still as nasty as they come entering the playoffs.Dylan Cease (2.2) and Lucas Giolito (1.9) rank third and fifth in the AL in fWAR since the All-Star break, respectively, while former Cy Young front-runners Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon (who could be ready for Game 3) round out the most potent swing-and-miss staff in the bigs. Chicago's bullpen was stellar in the regular season and is peaking behind red-hot Liam Hendriks and Aaron Bummer, eight-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel, and a deep group of middle relievers.The Astros' staff is far more uncertain, with Lance McCullers Jr. and Framber Valdez anchoring an effective but beatable stable of arms. Houston's starters ranked second in the AL in ERA (3.60) - just behind the White Sox (3.57) - but a pedestrian FIP (4.07) and xwOBA allowed (.308) tells a better story of this group. This team's bullpen is its weakest link, especially with deadline acquisition Kendall Graveman struggling since leaving the Mariners.Chicago's lineup was decimated by injuries during the year but is peaking at the right time - since Sept. 1, five of the top 30 AL hitters in fWAR hail from this lineup, led by scorching hot Luis Robert (.343/.379/.611) and walk machine Yasmani Grandal (.310/.459/.548). The White Sox are the more talented team in this matchup and are finally putting it all together; getting them at plus-money is a gift.Pick: White Sox +115Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Here's a look at the American League and National League leaders for the major stat categories at the conclusion of the 2021 regular season.Home runsAmerican League Rank Player Team HR T-1 Salvador Perez KC 48 T-1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 48 3 Shohei Ohtani LAA 46 Perez is only the second catcher - and first American League backstop - to lead the league in homers. He joins Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, who did it twice. Guerrero is the fourth-youngest player to win a home-run title, according to Sarah Langs of MLB.com.National League Rank Player Team HR 1 Fernando Tatis Jr. SD 42 2 Adam Duvall ATL 38 3 Pete Alonso NYM 37 RBIs Ron Schwane / Getty Images Sport / GettyAmerican League Rank Player Team RBI 1 Salvador Perez KC 121 2 Jose Abreu CWS 117 3 Teoscar Hernandez TOR 116 National League Rank Player Team RBI 1 Adam Duvall ATL 113 2 Austin Riley ATL 107 T-3 Ozzie Albies ATL 106 T-3 Manny Machado SD 106 Batting averageAmerican League Rank Player Team AVG 1 Yuli Gurriel HOU .319 T-2 Michael Brantley HOU .311 T-2 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR .311 National League Rank Player Team AVG 1 Trea Turner LAD .328 2 Juan Soto WSH .313 3 Bryce Harper PHI .309 OBPAmerican League Rank Player Team OBP 1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR .401 2 Yuli Gurriel HOU .383 3 Yoan Moncada CWS .375 National League Rank Player Team OBP 1 Juan Soto WSH .465 2 Bryce Harper PHI .429 3 Freddie Freeman ATL .393 Slugging Rich Schultz / Getty Images Sport / GettyAmerican League Rank Player Team SLG 1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR .601 2 Shohei Ohtani LAA .592 3 Kyle Tucker HOU .557 National League Rank Player Team SLG 1 Bryce Harper PHI .615 2 Fernando Tatis Jr. SD .611 3 Nick Castellanos CIN .576 HitsAmerican League Rank Player Team Hits 1 Bo Bichette TOR 191 2 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 188 3 Whit Merrifield KC 184 National League Rank Player Team Hits 1 Trea Turner LAD 195 2 Freddie Freeman ATL 180 3 Austin Riley ATL 179 OPSAmerican League Rank Player Team OPS 1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 1.002 2 Shohei Ohtani LAA .965 3 Kyle Tucker HOU .917 National League Rank Player Team OPS 1 Bryce Harper PHI 1.044 2 Juan Soto WSH .999 3 Fernando Tatis Jr. SD .975 Stolen basesAmerican League Rank Player Team SB 1 Whit Merrifield KC 40 T-2 Cedric Mullins BAL 30 T-2 Myles Straw CLE 30 National League Rank Player Team SB 1 Trea Turner LAD 32 2 Tommy Edman STL 30 2 Fernando Tatis Jr. SD 25 Starling Marte led the majors with 47 stolen bases. He stole 22 with Miami (NL), and 25 with Oakland (AL).RunsAmerican League Rank Player Team R 1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 123 2 Bo Bichette TOR 121 3 Jose Altuve HOU 117 National League Rank Player Team R 1 Freddie Freeman ATL 120 2 Juan Soto WSH 111 3 Trea Turner LAD 107 DoublesAmerican League Rank Player Team 2B T-1 Jeimer Candelario DET 42 T-1 J.D. Martinez BOS 42 T-1 Whit Merrifield KC 42 National League Rank Player Team 2B 1 Bryce Harper PHI 42 2 Tommy Edman STL 41 3 Ozzie Albies ATL 40 Extra-base hitsAmerican League Rank Player Team XBH 1 Marcus Semien TOR 86 2 Shohei Ohtani LAA 80 3 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 78 National League Rank Player Team XBH 1 Bryce Harper PHI 78 2 Ozzie Albies ATL 77 3 Nick Castellanos CIN 73 WalksAmerican League Rank Player Team BB 1 Joey Gallo NYY 111 2 Robbie Grossman DET 98 3 Shohei Ohtani LAA 96 National League Rank Player Team BB 1 Juan Soto WSH 145 2 Bryce Harper PHI 100 3 Freddie Freeman ATL 85 StrikeoutsAmerican League Rank Player Team K 1 Joey Gallo NYY 213 2 Matt Chapman OAK 202 3 Adolis Garcia TEX 194 National League Rank Player Team K 1 Javier Baez NYM 184 2 Adam Duvall ATL 174 3 Eugenio Suarez CIN 171 fWAR (as of Saturday) Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyAmerican League Rank Player Team fWAR 1 Shohei Ohtani LAA 8.0* 2 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 6.6 T-3 Marcus Semien TOR 6.4 T-3 Jose Ramirez CLE 6.4 * - Combined pitching (3.0) and hitting (5.0) fWARNational League Rank Player Team fWAR 1 Trea Turner LAD 6.7 2 Juan Soto WSH 6.6 3 Bryce Harper PHI 6.4 WinsAmerican League Rank Player Team Wins 1 Gerrit Cole NYY 16 T-2 Chris Flexen SEA 14 T-2 Steven Matz TOR 14 T-2 Hyun Jin Ryu TOR 14 National League Rank Player Team Wins 1 Julio Urias LAD 20 2 Adam Wainwright STL 17 3 Walker Buehler LAD 16 ERAAmerican League Rank Player Team ERA 1 Robbie Ray TOR 2.84 2 Lance McCullers HOU 3.16 3 Gerrit Cole NYY 3.23 National League Rank Player Team ERA 1 Corbin Burnes MIL 2.43 2 Max Scherzer LAD 2.46 3 Walker Buehler LAD 2.47 WHIPAmerican League Rank Player Team WHIP 1 Robbie Ray TOR 1.04 2 Gerrit Cole NYY 1.06 3 Jose Berrios TOR 1.06 National League Rank Player Team WHIP 1 Max Scherzer LAD 0.86 2 Corbin Burnes MIL 0.94 3 Brandon Woodruff MIL 0.96 Strikeouts Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images Sport / GettyAmerican League Rank Player Team K 1 Robbie Ray TOR 248 2 Gerrit Cole NYY 243 3 Dylan Cease CWS 226 National League Rank Player Team K 1 Zack Wheeler PHI 247 2 Max Scherzer LAD 236 3 Corbin Burnes MIL 234 SavesAmerican League Rank Player Team Saves 1 Liam Hendriks CWS 38 2 Raisel Iglesias LAA 34 3 Aroldis Chapman NYY 30 National League Rank Player Team Saves 1 Mark Melancon SD 39 2 Kenley Jansen LAD 38 3 Will Smith ATL 37 Games pitchedAmerican League Rank Player Team GP 1 Bryan Shaw CLE 81 2 Yusmeiro Petit OAK 78 3 Steve Cishek LAA 74 National League Rank Player Team GP 1 Tyler Rogers SF 80 2 Tim Hill SD 78 3 Hector Neris PHI 74 WalksAmerican League Rank Player Team BB 1 Lance McCullers Jr. HOU 76 2 Dylan Cease CWS 68 3 Nick Pivetta BOS 65 National League Rank Player Team BB T-1 Luis Castillo CIN 75 T-1 Zach Davies CHC 75 3 Blake Snell SD 69 Innings pitchedAmerican League Rank Player Team IP 1 Robbie Ray TOR 193.1 2 Jose Berrios TOR 192.0 3 Frankie Montas OAK 187.0 National League Rank Player Team IP 1 Zack Wheeler PHI 213.1 2 Walker Buehler LAD 207.2 3 Adam Wainwright STL 206.1 LossesAmerican League Rank Player Team Losses 1 Cole Irvin OAK 15 T-2 Matt Harvey BAL 14 T-2 Jorge Lopez BAL 14 National League Rank Player Team Losses T-1 Luis Castillo CIN 16 T-1 Patrick Corbin WSH 16 3 Sandy Alcantara MIA 15 fWAR (as of Saturday) Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox / Getty Images Sport / GettyAmerican League Rank Player Team fWAR 1 Nathan Eovaldi BOS 5.6 2 Gerrit Cole NYY 5.3 3 Dylan Cease CWS 4.2 National League Rank Player Team fWAR 1 Corbin Burnes MIL 7.5 2 Zack Wheeler PHI 7.3 3 Max Scherzer LAD 5.4 Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.